Teaching in the Temple (Mark 11:27-12:44)

The theme of this section is the authority of Jesus, which is questioned by the Jewish religious authority in Jerusalem for the first time in Mark.  Here it is Sadducees, scribes, and experts in the law that attempt to trap Jesus into a mistake that would undermine his authority, ultimately they are not successful at this.

In Matthew the teaching in the temple sequence is expanded with to include three parables in the Olivet Discourse a climax of the condemnation of the pharisees.  The Widow’s mite is missing, the challenges end with “paying taxes to Caesar.”

  • Entry Into Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-11 / Mk 11:1-11)
  • Cleansing of the Temple (Mt 21:12-16 / Mk 11:15-19)
  • Cursing of the Fig Tree (My 21:17-22 / Mk. 11:12-14, 20-21)
  • A Challenge to Jesus’ Authority (Mt 21:23-27 / Mk. 11:27-33)
  • Mark 12:1, he began to teach them in parables, only one is recorded in Mark.  Matthew includes three (typical of Matthew to record things in sets of three).
  • The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  • The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46 / Mark 12:1-12)
  • The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14 / Luke 14:15-24 (?))
  • Paying Taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22 / Mark 12:13-17)

The three parables have several themes in common. The central character is “a man” that represents God, first a father, then a landowner, and finally a king.  In the first and last  there is a contrast between those that respond properly to the will of the central character and those that do not.  The parable increase in their pointed criticism of the Jewish religious leadership and their rejection of the will of God as first presented by John the Baptist and later in their messianic ministry of Jesus.  There is a clear prediction in the parables that the Jews will kill Jesus and that the killing of Jesus will “seal their fate” and bring the judgment of God upon their heads, and even the city of Jerusalem.

The focus is therefore on the unfaithfulness of the Chief Priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and any other organized religion represented in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The contrast to this rejection of Jesus is the faith and repentance of the under-class of Galilee and Judea.  The “tax-collectors and prostitutes” have repented, the priests and scribes have not properly responded. Despite the fact that conventional wisdom would seem to be that the sinners would be on the outside of the kingdom and the Pharisees et al on the inside, Jesus reverses that thinking by having the unprepared Jews going last into the kingdom, or not at all!

This is the “shocking surprise” of these parables – those that are “in the kingdom” are not at all who were expected to be there, including those that make it inside!

9 thoughts on “Teaching in the Temple (Mark 11:27-12:44)

  1. I find this very interesting that Jesus flips upside down those who are “inside” the Kingdom. The biggest reason I find this interesting is because I wonder if many of the church leaders in today’s culture would be likened to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Chief Priests? They thought they had it all figured out and that there way twas the only “right” way. Just like the religious people in America. It seems that many churches think they have it “right” and that everyone else is wrong. It seems that is exactly what the religious people of Jesus’ day did as well. They flaunted their ability to pray and boasted in their works. I see that all across the board at so many churches; Pastors who brag about what “good” they did that week and preach sermons about how their church is correct in their theology, but everyone else is completely wrong.
    I think Jesus allowed the sinners and lepers to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven because they had faith. And not just a “convenient faith” but a faith that resembled that of one like a child would have; an all out faith in Jesus and in nothing else. “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.” (Matt. 18:2-4 The Message)

  2. I like what you have said Joe; it is interesting that Jesus flips the tables on the Pharisees and the religious leaders. As the Church, we look at these Pharisees and say that they were horrible people that did not understand nor behave properly. We paint them in such a bad image but I wonder who would have looked worse, the religious leaders now or back then? I would say that the religious leaders in Jesus’ days were more pious in their behavior than what we see today. It reminds me of the ministry team that we did last year. We did the parable of the Lost Sons. In that parable Jesus is talking to the religious leaders and how they were the ones that were in fact lost rather than the sinners and tax collectors. One of the parallels that we had were that of the church and the religious leaders. The Church often believes that they are in the right and refuse to reach out to the “sinners” of our society. Not only that but our attitude towards them and our reaction to them is just as bad as the religious leaders.

    The second thing that I see in this section is that the religious leaders are replaced by other Jews. Often I think that people see this passage as saying that the Jews are being replaced by the Gentiles but there is nothing in Jesus’ ministry up to this point that shows this. He is replacing the religious leaders with the “second-class” Jews that were accepting Jesus’ message, that is the sinners and tax-collectors (Blomberg 370). The Pharisees were the ones that should have been accepting Jesus’ message but they were the very people that were rejecting it. However, it was the sinners and tax collectors that received that message and they were going to be the ones that were going to be in the Kingdom because of their faith.

    • “He is replacing the religious leaders with the “second-class” Jews” – good, that is the point of the Parable of the Tenants, and I think the Banquet parable as well. Jesus has already re-populated the kingdom with outsiders, his own followers!

  3. That is a good observation Brent, that so often we have painted the Pharisees as the bad guys. They are often looked upon as people who just never got, or understood what Jesus was saying, and teaching. We can sit here 2000 years later and obviously point these things out, but if we were in that time period would we as good Jewish people been able to desicpher what Jesus was saying? Then we look at today’s church leaders, and ourselves, and we can all say that we fall in line at times with the Pharisees. We have a Christian education, where we have in a sense religously studied scripture, critiqued people and what they have said, and we can sit back from dilemas that are transpiring around us, and pick apart how the situations should be handled.

    Jesus knows and understands the condition of the human heart, and what we truly desire. With these instances Jesus is shining the light onto us as leaders, and future leaders, to get beyond ourselves.

  4. Oooohhh…. Get beyond ourselves… nicely put Jed! I often wonder myself if I have a preset notion of what Jesus will say or do when he comes back. If I am being totally honest, I think I do and that this expectation will be completely and radically challenged and destroyed pending Christs return. Heck, I often look at the modern Christian leadership and peg them as hypocritical, just like the Jewish leaders of the time of Jesus but is this really right and fair? Now, I would agree that there are some that are obviously way off on their theology but just as it’s already been said, the Jewish leaders were genuinely pious and devout in their worship of God, they just didn’t get who Jesus was or what he was about. That being said, could our modern Christian leadership that we so often judge be the same? And if so, is their fate the same as that of the Jewish leaders of 1st century Israel? I don’t know… just some thoughts… as for the lowest citizens of Israel being given a place in heaven goes, I’m so glad that God meets us where we are at and gives us that opportunity instead of holding all of us to a religiously rigid standard that a few attain if anyone. It takes true, realized depravity and desperation to fully appreciate God’s sovereign grace as He extends his forgiveness and mercy to us, a wicked and perverse generation!

  5. Comparing the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Church today is really interesting. I think that this would be a good comparison at times. We can sometimes get so caught up in trying to do things the “right” way, critiquing everyone around us, putting ourselves on a pedestal, that we sometimes forget that we are all equal sinners in God’s eyes. Not one of us is better than the other. I really liked what Jason said at the end of his post, “It takes true, realized depravity and desperation to fully appreciate God’s sovereign grace as He extends his forgiveness and mercy to us, a wicked and perverse generation!” How true is this statement! We need to humble ourselves before God and before others, and even before ourselves, and we need to realize how depraved we are before we can truly understand God’s power, grace, and love. No one here on earth can be as perfect as he ever was, is, or will be, but we are still to strive to be more like him and follow his commandments so that we may be true examples of Christ and may better our chances of reaching others for him.

  6. Joe you have a good point about Christ taking what the the religious leadership of the day thought was right and reversing it. I was thinking about a sermon I heard not too long ago in which the reverend was preaching on racism. This relates because I find that in many of the churches I have attended there is a large field of division within, wether it be a division by race or social class or perhaps even things as trivial as State vs Michigan. In regards to the religious leadership of today I have found that there is a cancer of closed mindedness. I could just see Christ going on about how the Church needs to adapt and change with the world in order to compete with the massive influx of conduits for evil to travel. The internet, multi-media, convenience of communication, all of these realms of technology and interfacing are evolving and I still see churches clinging to ways that are obsoleted by this evolution of tech. If the Church were to let go of its death-grip on traditionalism we may find a more conclusive race against the ways in which evil permeates our society.

  7. Going of Jed’s comment: from my perspective the church has painted the Pharisees as “the bad guys.” I remember many occasions on Sunday morning when the Pastor would point out to the church why we should not become like the Pharisees. Often churches take pleasure in labeling other groups as Pharisees. Sadly this perspective polluted my mind until Bible 102 in January 2008. P. Long did a great job describing the different groups. This is when I realized that Pharisees were not so bad. Yes many of them were incorrect in their religious methods, but at least they put forth an effort to become educated in the law. Often Christians do get sucked into this bubble of elitism. Some of my friends often comment how Christians think their better than everyone else. This is something I try not to display in my daily walk.

  8. Jason put an interesting bug in my brain. What is Jesus going to say when he comes back?? I just wonder if he is going to do what he did when he went in the temple. So often we peg modern Christian leadership as hypocritical but really is that fair?? We did he same thing for the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time. The only thing here is that not only were they way off in their theology, but they had no clue what Jesus was really about. I think in some ways we all fall in the same boat as the pharisees did back in the days of Jesus’ teachings.

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